David Cunning

Professor and Chair of the Department
Collegiate Scholar
PhD, University of California, Irvine, 2000
250 English-Philosophy Building
Office Hours: 

Hi.  I am a philosophy professor at the University of Iowa.  My research and teaching interests include the history of the mind-body problem, the methods of rationalism, free will and determinism, agency, and the rhetoric of inquiry.  I recently completed a scholarly edition of the works of the 17th-Century philosopher and scientist, Margaret Cavendish.  She defends the view that the bodies that surround us, and the bodies that compose us, are sophisticated, perceptive and smart.  Then she proceeds to develop a number of compelling theses about freedom, agency, and authority.  I am continuing to work on both Cavendish and Descartes, and on related issues in Spinoza's monism and pan-psychism.


Selected Publications: 


  • Descartes, in the series The Routledge Philosophers, Routledge Publishing, under contract.
  • Editor, Margaret Cavendish: Philosophical Writings, Oxford University Press (2019), 274 pp.
  • Cavendish, in the series The Arguments of the Philosophers, Routledge (2016), 318 pp.
  • Everyday Examples, Bloomsbury Academic Publishing, (2015), 312 pp.
  • Editor, The Cambridge Companion to Descartes' Meditations, Cambridge University Press (2014), 336 pp.
  • Argument and Persuasion in Descartes' Meditations, Oxford University Press (2010), 248 pp.


  • "Margaret Cavendish, Galen Strawson, and the Not-Implausibility of Monism," commissioned for Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Mind.
  • "Ways of Knowing," commissioned for The Routledge Handbook of Women and Early Modern European Philosophy, ed. Karen Detlefsen and Lisa Shapiro, Routledge Publishing.
  • "Cavendish, Philosophical Letters, and the Plenum," forthcoming in Cavendish: An Interdisciplinary Perspective, ed. Lisa Walters and Brandie Siegfried, Cambridge UP.
  • "The Feminist Worlds of Margaret Cavendish," forthcoming in World-Making Women, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried, Cambridge UP.
  • "Simple Natures and Eternal Truths," forthcoming in The Cartesian Mind, ed. Cecilia Wee and Jorge Secada, Routledge Publishing.
  • Review of J. Broad, Women Philosophers of Seventeenth-Century England: Selected Correspondence, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (2020)
  • "Hyperbolic Doubt, Cognitive Garbage, and the Regulae," Revue Internationale De Philosophie 2019/4, 449-467.
  • "Cavendish on Material Causation and Cognition," Causation and Cognition: Perspectives on Early Modern Philosophy, ed. Dominik Perler and Sebastian Bender, Routledge Publishing (2019), 145-170.
  • Review of The Well-Ordered Universe: The Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish by Deborah Boyle, Locke Studies 18 (2018), 1-9.
  • "Cavendish on the Metaphysics of Imagination and the Dramatic Force of the Imaginary World," Early Modern Women on Metaphysics, ed. Emily Thomas, Cambridge UP (2018), 188-210
  • "Descartes and the Force of Skepticism," Skepticism: From Antiquity to the Present, ed. Baron Reed and Diego Machuca, Bloomsbury Academic (2017)
  • Review of C.P. Ragland, The Will to Reason: Theodicy and Freedom in Descartes, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (2016).
  • "True and Immutable Natures," The Cambridge Descartes Lexicon, ed. L. Nolan, Cambridge UP (2016), 727-730
  • "Analysis vs. Synthesis," The Cambridge Descartes Lexicon, ed. L. Nolan, Cambridge UP (2016), 7-12
  • "Introduction," The Cambridge Companion to Descartes' Meditations, ed. D. Cunning, Cambridge UP (2014), 1-22
  • "The First Meditation: Divine Omnipotence, Necessary Truths, and the Possibility of Radical Deception," The Cambridge Companion to Descartes' Meditations, Cambridge UP (2014), 68-87
  • "Descartes on God and the Products of His Will," Models of God and Other Ultimate Realities, ed. J. Diller and A. Kasher, Springer Publishing (2013), 175-193.
  • Review of K. Smith, Matter Matters, British Journal for the History of Philosophy 19 (2011), 997-1001
  • "Mind-Body Problems," The Routledge Companion to Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, ed. D. Kaufman, Routledge Publishing
  • “Margaret Lucas Cavendish,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. E. Zalta (2009), 43 pp.
  • Review (co-authored) of M. Moriarty, Fallen Nature, Fallen Selves: Early Modern French Thought II, Journal of the History of Philosophy 46 (2008), 644-5
  • "Malebranche and Occasional Causes," Philosophy Compass 3 (2008), 1-20
  • "Fifth Meditation TINs Revisited: A Reply to Criticisms of the Epistemic Interpretation,” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 16 (2008), 215-227
  • "Nicolas Malebranche," The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers, ed. T. Hockey, Springer Academic Publishers (2007), 731-2
  • "Semel in Vita: Descartes' Stoic View on the Place of Philosophy in Human Life," Faith and Philosophy 24 (2007), 164-183
  • "Descartes on the Dubitability of the Existence of Self," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (2007), 111-131
  • "Cavendish on the Intelligibility of the Prospect of Thinking Matter," History of Philosophy Quarterly 23 (2006), 117-136
  • "Descartes on Sensations and Ideas of Sensations,"An Anthology of Philosophical Studies, Athens: Atiner Publishing (2006), 17-32
  • Review of D. Skrbina, Panpsychism in the West, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (2005)
  • "Rationalism and Education," A Companion to Rationalism, ed. A. Nelson, Blackwell Publishing (2005), 61-81
  • Editor and translator, “Principii Cartesia” by Robert Percy Smith, The Philological Museum (2004), ed. D. Sutton
  • "Systematic Divergences in Malebranche and Cudworth," Journal of the History of Philosophy 41 (2003), 343-363
  • "True and Immutable Natures and Epistemic Progress in Descartes' Meditations," British Journal for the History of Philosophy 11 (2003), 235-248
  • "Descartes on the Immutability of the Divine Will," Religious Studies 39 (2003), 79-92
  • "Descartes' Modal Metaphysics," The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2002), ed. E. Zalta, 37 pp.
  • "Agency and Consciousness," Synthese 120 (1999), 271-294
  • "Modality and Cognition in Descartes" (co-authored), Acta Philosophica Fennica 64 (1999), 137-153
Dissertations Directed: 

Peter Bezanson, "Idealism : A Brief History, Taxonomy, and Nietzschean Evaluation" (2005) -- CEO of the BASIS Educational Group, a charter school system.

Pete Legrant, "Spinoza's Realist and Four-dimensionalist Theory of Physical Individuation" (2009) -- Associate Professor of Philosophy, Bakersfield College.

Seth Jones, "Modality, Compatibilism, and Leibniz: A Critical Defense" (2012) -- Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Kristopher Phillips, "Cartesian Modality: God's Nature and the Creation of Eternal and Contingent Truth" (2014) -- Associate Professor of Philosophy, Southern Utah University.

Hannibal Jackson, "Eternal and Expansive Super-Necessitarianism: a new interpretation of Spinoza's metaphysics (2016) -- Lecturer, Temple College.